Mom, you’re gonna break the hoop

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AP Photo/The Wilmington News-Journal, Robert Craig
Melissa McCafferty sits on a basketball hoop in protest on after Delaware Department of Transportation crews escorted by state police cruisers tore down basketball hoops today in Claymont, Del. Last fall, DelDOT sent letters to at least eight residents in the Radnor Green and Ashbourne Hills subdivisions saying their street-side basketball hoops violated the state’s Clear Zone law.

By Randall Chase
The Associated Press

DOVER, Del. — A Delaware mom climbed atop her family’s basketball hoop today in a short-lived bid to keep authorities from ripping it out and confiscating it.

Transportation workers and state police came to her neighborhood in Wilmington Friday morning to remove several basketball goals that officials said were too close to the roadway.

Several residents were sent letters last year warning them that the state’s “Clear Zone” law prohibits trees and other objects from being within seven feet of the pavement’s edge in a residential subdivision.

John and Melissa McCafferty said they’d gotten more than one warning letter, but that police cars and heavy machinery showed up without warning this morning to remove the hoops.

While their neighbors weren’t home, the McCaffertys decided to fight back.

Melissa, 39, parked her van underneath the goal, climbed the pole and perched herself behind the backboard, risking arrest. McCafferty said she could only think about how sad her 10-year-old daughter would be about the removal.

“To be honest with you, I really wasn’t thinking. All I was seeing was my 10-year-old’s face,” said McCafferty, who also has two teenagers who like to shoot hoops.

“They threatened to arrest me, and I told them that would be fine. I don’t mind going to jail for my kids.”

When a news photographer showed up, police and work crews gave up trying to add McCafferty’s hoop to several others they confiscated.

But they returned later, with a state police lieutenant again threatening to arrest the McCaffertys and impound their vehicles if they didn’t give up the fight. John McCafferty said he was in the process of trying to get a restraining order, but that the lieutentant refused to allow him to contact a judge

A front-end loader yanked the pole out of the ground and put it in a dump truck that hauled it away.

“I have a feeling that when some of the neighbors come home, they’re going to be devastated,” Melissa said.

A Department of Transportation spokesman did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

John McCafferty, 46, said the pole has been on the property since the 1950s, long before the Clear Zone law was enacted, and that he believes it is exempted from the law.

In any event, McCafferty said, the basketball hoop sits in a quiet cul-de-sac with little traffic and has never been a source of contention until now.

“It’s been there for 61 years, and it’s created no problem until this year,” he said.

The McCaffertys said they and other residents believe the controversy stems from an anonymous complaint from an elderly neighbor upset about having to slow down for kids playing in the neighborhood.

“This is obnoxious,” he said.

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